Curse of the Honey Bears

The Honey BearsI don’t truly believe in curses, even as a Cubs and Bears fan. And I don’t remember anyone associated with the Honey Bears saying anything about the team not going back to the Super Bowl after their contract wasn’t renewed for 1986.

I enjoyed watching the Honey Bears immensely when I was a little kid going to Bears games with my Dad. I thought they were a cool part of the package of being a Bears fan. But for whatever reason, “ownership” of the Bears will only say that they don’t think cheerleaders are a proper part of football. Right after the announcement in 1985, the team officially answered the question of “why” with a question. “Have cheerleaders become passe?” 30 years later, I’d say they haven’t.

What do you think?

Top 10 NFL Curses Appearance

I most certainly will have egg on my face if my interview didn’t make the cut, but here goes nothing. In March 2013 I was interviewed for NFL Network’s Top 10 series on several Bears-related subjects. If my interviews don’t end up landing on the cutting room floor, this will probably be the pinnacle of my broadcast opportunities for my lifetime. It was a great experience and I’m super thankful to the network for asking me to participate. I was interviewed by Bob Angelo, a great guy and a legend at NFL Films.

Saturday night November 2nd at 8 p.m. Central on NFL Network, the first new episode that should feature my comments is set to air: “Top Ten NFL Curses.” There will be some very fun topics, including one involving the Bears. I’m thinking it will probably be featured very early in the episode.

I hope to end up making the cut on several more episodes that haven’t yet aired. If I make any of them, it most certainly should be this episode. I talked to Bob and his staff for 90 minutes, which he said hopefully will get around 50 seconds of comments used in bursts.

Enjoy the show! Just after it airs, I’ll post something new on the Chicago Bears Blog and BearsHistory.com if anyone wants to weigh in on the curse involving the Chicago Bears.

Bears at Packers 2013

A few quick thoughts on the upcoming Monday Night Football game at Green Bay.

- It is well known that the Bears continue to run the same defense as they did under Lovie Smith for eight seasons. It’s “bend but don’t break,” try to force turnovers while forcing the opposition to get yardage a little at a time, and to not allow long plays. This defensive system MUST have a strong pass rush from the four down linemen. No pass rush from the four down linemen, and it’s FAIL. No pass rush from four down linemen plus Aaron Rodgers, and I’m sorry to say the Bears could be toast quickly on Monday. They currently rank 27th of 32 teams defensively.

- Sorry to once again bring up the miserable stats vs. Green Bay, but I have to. Mike Ditka had a 15-5 record against the Packers in 10 seasons. Since Michael McCaskey fired Ditka, the Bears have lost 30 of 41 games against Green Bay (including the 2010 NFC Championship game at home). I’d love to see the Bears pull off a shocking upset Monday, proving that they still have a chance to win in 2013 despite all their injuries. I’ve convinced myself that the Bears would finally do it many times over the last 41 games, and have usually been wrong. I’m not even trying to convince myself anymore.

- Speaking of the injuries, in addition to Kyle Long and Jordan Mills on offense, the Bears are now forced to start rookies Khaseem Greene and Jon Bostic at linebacker for the foreseeable future. Not to mention a heavy dose of young, unproven players on the defensive line, including Zach Minter, Landon Cohen and David Bass. With Rodgers at quarterback, the Packers have brushed off significant injuries at receiver to not miss a beat. It would be nice to see the Bears shock by improving on defense with the injuries, but I’m not counting on it.

- I like reading Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, so no sleight here. I was surprised he wrote this, though. Last week, before the Bears’ ugly loss at Washington, in his 32-team rankings Biggs wrote of Green Bay: “After the 1-2 start, who would have thought they would be atop the NFC North?” I DID. It always happens.

- The 3-0 start this season may have had myself and other Bears fans dreaming of one more push for the Super Bowl before the window closes on this group. Should the Bears fall to 4-4 after a loss at Green Bay, then lose to Detroit at home, tell me how there is any hope left in this season with a 4-5 start? They would have to play flawless football, avoid further injuries (doubtful) and have great fortune thrown in to finish no worse than 6-1 to have any hope. Then next year, remember there is no choice but a rebuild in order. 30 players have contracts expiring. This team needs playmakers on the defensive line and secondary. It will be interesting. Hopefully not depressing though.

Turning Point 2013

I entered the 2013 Chicago Bears season as usual. Hoping for the best but with a healthy dose of skepticism. Many experts predicted that the team would finish around 7-9 or 8-8. Most predicted they would lose to the juggernaut Cincinnati Bengals at home in the opener. Personally I thought they would win the opener, and that they would finish this season better than 7-9 or 8-8.

How could they not finish better than 7-9 or 8-8? They were 10-6 in 2012. Their offensive line is greatly improved with the addition of a free agent, a Pro Bowl free agent and two rookies. They returned most of their defense and are using the same system that had been successful in the past. They hired a new coaching staff that understands offense better than any staff since Mike Ditka’s. They started 3-0, and true excitement was back for those brief few weeks.

Then, the following intervened:

- It’s immediately evident that the pass rush from the defensive linemen has dropped off from 2012.
- Peanut Tillman is not consistently healthy.
- As the team is wrapping up the third win in a row to begin the season, their Pro Bowl three-technique defensive tackle (Henry Melton) is lost for the season.
- Melton’s replacement, Nick Collins, for whom everyone had high hopes, is lost for the season.
- As the Bears lose three of four games following the 3-0 start, they lose starting quarterback Jay Cutler and defensive captain Lance Briggs for probably what will be longer than six weeks.

After this week’s bye, the Bears face the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field on Monday night. What looked to be a game that may determine the leader of the division instead is a game that may determine the Bears’ ultimate fate this year. Beat the Packers and this battered team may have a chance. Lose, and the 4-4 Bears may have to start looking to 2014.

Last Sunday at Washington, the Bears played a Redskins team they should have beaten. Instead it turned into the first game in Chicago Bears History in which they scored 40 points and lost (45-41). More on this as the season progresses, but this game reminded me of many from the 1989 Chicago Bears season. That year their offense was scoring points capably, but it seemed in every game there was no hope that the defense could hold the lead.

The Forecast- Bears vs Redskins

I really love the progress the Bears offense continues to make. Once again, they didn’t give up any sacks against an underachieving yet dangerous Giants team. Jay Cutler hasn’t thrown an interception in his last 94 passes. Matt Forte is on pace for 1,000 rushing 600 receiving yards. If only they can start to get Forte in a rhythm between the tackles…

The defense, on a different note, continues to disappoint. I understand that they took the ball away three times against the Giants, but everyone has been doing that. They continue to give up way too many yards. Brandon Jacobs wasn’t on a roster a few weeks ago, and he came into Soldier Field and looked like he was 26 years old again. They put absolutely no pressure on Eli Manning and that was nothing new. Each and every week, they lack a pass rush and that will eventually catch up to them.

Today, the Bears head to the largest stadium in football—FedEx Field. The Redskins are really struggling. Their defense is giving up 395 yards per game. They have given up 271 passing yards each week on average, and they are even yielding 4.2 yards per carry. A week ago, they played in primetime in Dallas and really stunk. Robert Griffin was over-throwing his receivers left and right. It looks like he is back to being as fast as he was last season, but his mechanics are atrocious. Washington lost two players to season-ending injuries last Sunday, too. Right now, they are 1-4, and if it wasn’t for Matt Flynn, they would probably be 0-5.

College Football Recap
There were quite a few upsets yesterday. Auburn beat Texas A&M in a shootout in College Station, thanks to a Johnny Manziel shoulder injury. Vanderbilt scored 17 fourth quarter points at home to take down Georgia. Duke even scored 35 unanswered points to defeat Virginia on the road.

Jameis Winston is incredible. I tweeted last night that he is easily the best player in college football, and I’m not backing down from it. Marcus Mariota is great, but Winston is a true freshman putting up great numbers in not-as-friendly of a system for quarterbacks. If the draft were tomorrow and Mariota, Bridgewater and Winston were all eligible, Winston would go number one.

USC is pathetic. Pat Haden better strike it rich with his new head coach, or he will be getting fired at an airport soon. How Southern California, with their weather and women and tradition, can’t find a competent quarterback and kicker is beyond me. I understand that the reduction of scholarships hurts, but to go on the road against a horrible backup quarterback for a half who gave them great field position time and time again yet still only score 10 points is extremely shitty.

Weather
The weather in our nation’s capital shows a great day for football. Temperatures will be in the high 50’s at the start and will rise into the mid-60’s throughout.

Injury report
The Jon Bostic era is upon us. Brandon Jacobs ran D.J. Williams over last Thursday, and in the process, Williams tore his right pectoral muscle. He will miss the rest of the season. That’s now three players on defense that will be out for the remainder of the year. Charles Tillman (groin/knee), Martellus Bennett (knee), Anthony Walters (hamstring), Major Wright (knee), and James Anderson (back) are all questionable but should play. Stephen Paea (toe) is probable, and he was sorely missed in the last two games. As I mentioned earlier, Washington is having some injury problems as well. LB Bryan Kehl (knee) and LS Nick Sundberg (knee) both suffered season-ending injuries against the Cowboys last week. TE Fred Davis (ankle), LB Brandon Jenkins (ankle), and C Will Montgomery (knee) are all probable. Rookie CB David Amerson (head) suffered a nasty looking hit last week and looked unconscious on the field. He will play today, though.

Did you know?
Since 2003, the Bears have scored a defensive touchdown in 32 different games. In those games, they are 27-5.

NFL Predictions
I started out so well and have shown a rapid decline in these predictions ever since. Today, I’ll take the Patriots to barely fly by the Jets, Panthers to top the Rams, Lions to roar past the Bengals, Steelers over the Ravens, and the Broncos to beat the Colts in what everyone apparently believes is the game of the century. (16-15 on the year)

Players to Watch
Pierre Garcon- If Pierre Garcon played somewhere out west, nobody would even know who he is. Instead, he plays east of the Mississippi, so everyone thinks he’s the next Jerry Rice. Garcon is fast, and that’s about it. He has only played a full season once in five years. He drops a lot of passes, too. Be that as it may, Daniel Snyder gave Garcon a huge contract a few years back to join the Redskins after never having more than 950 yards in a season in Indianapolis. Because Garcon is really Washington’s only threat in terms of wide receivers, he gets a lot of looks from Robert Griffin. The Bears’ secondary has to take Garcon out of the game today and let Leonard Hankerson and Santana Moss beat them.

Ryan Kerrigan- When the Redskins selected Ryan Kerrigan 16th overall in 2011, I thought it was a sketchy pick. Before this season began, Kerrigan was a disappointment. Similar to Cameron Jordan from the Saints, Kerrigan’s career has been up and down since entering the league. The only positive for Kerrigan is that he had never missed a game. However, it finally seems like he was worthy of the selection. In his first two years, Kerrigan had 16 sacks combined. This year, he already has 5. He has forced two fumbles as well. The Bears offensive line has been very good this year, but Kerrigan is a potentially hellacious matchup for Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills.

Alshon Jeffery- Last year, I was very tough on Alshon Jeffery. I thought he was fat, slow, injured, and that he displayed bad hands. This year, he has been fantastic. Jeffery is on pace for an 85 catch/1,000 yard season. Today, Jeffery has to play well again. DeAngelo Hall is a giant douchebag, but that doesn’t have anything to do with his ability. Last week, he held Dez Bryant to only five catches for under 40 yards. It would seem logical for Redskins’ defensive coordinator Jim Haslett to match Hall up on Brandon Marshall. In that case, Jeffery has to dominate the other starting CB for Washington, Josh Wilson. Unfortunately, Wilson is having a solid year, so it won’t be easy.

Julius Peppers- Going into this year, the least of my worries was Julius Peppers. He started out slow against Cincinnati, and I defended him saying that it’s just one game. Going into the Minnesota game in week two, I said that it would be hard for him to have an impact due to the field conditions. In week three, he scored a defensive touchdown and a week later in Detroit, he had a strip-sack of Matthew Stafford. At that moment, everything seemed great. Since that day, Peppers has done nothing. No, I mean that: nothing. He doesn’t have any stats the past two weeks. Not even one fucking tackle. The last time he had a tackle, the government was open. Washington’s offensive line has only given up 10 sacks through five games led by star T Trent Williams, but Peppers has to start doing something soon, because if he doesn’t, who will?

The Forecast
The Redskins come into this game in deep shit. The NFC East is wide open, but if they fall to 1-5, their season might just be over. Robert Griffin looks like he did in his first two years at Baylor. Alfred Morris is slightly banged up. Brian Orakpo only has three sacks. Sav Rocca, their punter, has made it possible to be worse than Adam Podlesh as Rocca is last in net and average punting. Their defense only has three interceptions through five games, but what did they expect when they began the year with a dope like Brandon Meriweather starting in their secondary? Similar to New York last week, Washington isn’t really catching any breaks this season. They realize that they have to start winning games soon, and that is what makes this contest so scary for Chicago. The Redskins have to win this game. The Bears don’t have to, although it would be ideal with a bye week before heading Green Bay. Going back to week one of 2012, the ‘Skins are a mediocre 5-5 at home. In Jay Cutler’s 100th career start in a place where he has never played, the Bears win a tight one. Bears 24-23. (5-1 on the year)

-Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1)

Friday Five: Bears at Redskins 2013

Redskins Throwbacks

Wow, Danny Wuerffel actually started for the Redskins under Steve Spurrier.

Remember the days when the Bears were one ongoing controversy (Tank Johnson, Cedric Benson)? Thankfully the Redskins and their team name are currently in the driver’s seat on that subject. I posted the photo to the left because I loved those Redskin throwback uniforms from 2003. As the kids would say, I thought they were sweet. Hilarious that former Washington coach Steve Spurrier had Danny Wuerffel and Shane Matthews as his quarterbacks. Back when we thought Rex Grossman was the future (and ironically he’s now riding the bench third-string in Washington).

This week’s Friday five:

1. We better enjoy this week’s game, as it’s the only Bears game within a 24-day period (as pointed out by the Chicago Tribune). Since they last played on a Thursday night, then have their bye and don’t play again until Monday night, that’s a remarkably long stretch with only one game. Not sure if that’s close to record territory or not, but definitely odd. Hopefully at least Stephen Paea and Charles Tillman can get healthy.

2. The Jon Bostic era begins in earnest on Sunday after mike backer DJ Williams was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. It’s been a strange journey so far for Bostic. He started all preseason games due to a Williams injury and looked to be the opening-day starter. He then took a seat as Williams did in fact start, and played well. Now he’s the man. Interesting-at least in Lovie Smith’s base defense the middle of the unit was considered to be critical (unlike some other defensive schemes). The three-technique tackle, middle linebacker and safeties are more important as the corners pass everything to the middle of the field. And the pass rush is expected to begin by collapsing the pocket from inside. Now the 2013 Chicago Bears have lost two of their three-technique tackles, their middle linebacker, and their safeties have always been inconsistent. Let’s hope for no more injuries.

3. Jay Cutler is on a record pace, at least as Bears quarterbacks have gone. Should he keep up his current averages, he’ll throw for 4,346 yards and 32 touchdowns, smashing Erik Kramer‘s records set in 1995. He’s also just 800 yards behind Sid Luckman on the Bears’ all-time passing yardage list, so barring injury this year he will become the Bears’ all-time leader in yardage. Luckman has remained the Bears’ leader for 64 seasons!

4. Recent Bears-Redskins history: So much to discuss, so little time and space. The Bears have lost four games in a row to the Redskins, going back to the 2005 opener when Kyle Orton started his first game as a rookie. The Bears won the prior two before that, then had lost the previous six between 1989 and 1999. The 80′s were an exciting time between the clubs when Mike Ditka dueled Joe Gibbs. Chicago’s 1984 playoff win in Washington propelled the Bears to the NFC Championship game, then the Bears rolled over the Redskins 45-10 in the famous 1985 championship season. And who could forget Washington knocking the Bears out of the playoffs in ’86 and ’87, ending their hopes of a dynasty. Finally, I cover the biggest blowout in NFL history, the 73-0 Bears NFL Championship win in 1940 in Washington, in my Chicago Bears History presentation.

5. My verdict: I don’t announce my picks with fanfare. But I’ll say the Bears are about where I thought and hoped they would be so far. I didn’t have confidence that they would beat Detroit or New Orleans. I do think they should win at Washington, as long as the offense limits turnovers and scores points against the porous Redskin defense.

Bears History at Brookfield Library

Chicago Bears History PresentationThe Chicago Bears History road show continues on Tuesday, October 22nd at 7 p.m. I will be doing my 90-minute multimedia presentation on the Bears’ 94-year history at Brookfield Public Library.

Information on the event is available on the Brookfield Public Library Home Page through the event date.

Hope to see you there!

The Forecast- Giants vs Bears

I have never been someone who blames anyone but players for a loss. When a team only scores 18 points at home, it’s going to be tough to win. It’s also a pretty good guess to assume that the players were responsible. It was no different on Sunday. There was a lack of execution. The first four drives had results of 3rd and 17, lost fumble, 3rd and 18, and 3rd and 17. However, this loss is solely on Marc Trestman and Mel Tucker. Hear me out.

—Trestman had a chance to use a timeout and save almost 30 seconds before the second quarter ended. Instead, he chose not to. In hindsight, that was a dumb call, because his offense got the ball into New Orleans’ territory and settled with a long, but not long enough, completion. With another handful of seconds, that situation might have resulted in an easy field goal for Robbie Gould.
—Trestman then went on to use several minutes of the third and fourth quarter with run play after run play and no sense of urgency in between those calls.
—That brings me to my next point—I said on Sunday that the Bears had to run the ball a lot with Matt Forte. The fact that he was only given four fucking carries in the first half is inexcusable on the part of Trestman. I know they only went for a total of 10 yards, but against a bad run defense like that, they should have continued to put pressure on them. That would have also made it tough for Rob Ryan to dial up blitzes.
—Mel Tucker’s defense continues to get zero pressure on the quarterback. I know it seems odd after a game where they accumulated a few sacks. There were a few knockdowns of Drew Brees as well, but someone could have told me that Julius Peppers didn’t play and I might have believed them. He’s having his worst year of his career by far. Shea McClellin does nothing out there. Corey Wootton is mediocre. The former could have an excuse for age, but Tucker was supposed to help the last two get to the next level, and right now, they’re doing a lot of nothing. David Bass was the Bears’ best DE on Sunday. That’s embarrassing.
—Lance Briggs had a stupid play in the fourth quarter where he jumped offsides. I have never seen Briggs do something so stupid in my life. It makes me wonder if Briggs is tuning out his new coaches.
—Tucker’s defense also continues to not get their hands up on passes. That might be the only way they could have stopped Drew Brees and his short passes. Peppers talked last week how they wouldn’t change their scheme, but against a smaller quarterback like Brees, they would have to get their hands up to disrupt his vision and tip a few throws. They didn’t, and maybe that’s on the players, but again, there was none of this in the last several years.

These things can be fixed (except for the McClellin thing. He’s just bad). It helps that the next opponent is the New York Giants. The Giants are 0-5; if the draft was today, they would have the #1 overall pick. They can’t protect Eli Manning (fifth worst in the NFL) or get to the opponent’s quarterback (second to last in the NFL). They’re badly injured; their best defensive player, Jason Pierre-Paul, had offseason surgery and now only has one sack in 2013. Their best signing this offseason was TE Brandon Myers. Myers had 79 catches last year for Oakland, but this year, he only has five. The Giants are averaging a 36-16 defeat each week. They turn the ball over about 4 times every game. They have no run game, and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride admitted how tough it will be in the weeks ahead with Brandon Jacobs running the ball. Hell, New York is even dead last in the league in net punting. Nothing is going right for New York right now. This is a game that the Bears should win.

College Football Recap
N/A

Weather
It should be a beautiful night for football. Temperatures will be in the low 60’s at kick-off.

Injury report
The Bears’ defensive line took another hit. Nate Collins, like Henry Melton, tore his ACL and is done for the remainder of the season. Joe Anderson (knee), Eben Britton (foot), Jermon Bushrod (calf), and Alshon Jeffery (ankle) are good to go tonight. Martellus Bennett (knee), Lance Briggs (hip), and Charles Tillman (knee/groin) are questionable, but I expect all three to suit up. Nobody saw Stephen Paea (toe) not playing on Sunday against New Orleans, but he indeed was inactive. He will be questionable again tonight. Anthony Walters (hamstring) will be out for the second straight week. The Giants are devastated. Chris Snee, a 3x All-Pro guard, is out for the year (hip) as are CB Aaron Ross (back) and FB Henry Hynoski (shoulder). LS Zak DeOssie (back), S Cooper Taylor, DT Linval Joseph (ankle/knee), TE Adrien Robinson (foot), TE Brandon Myers (ankle), CB Terrell Thomas (knee), and DT Linval Joseph (ankle/knee), WR Louis Murphy (ankle) all are probable while DE Damontre Moore (hamstring) is doubtful. CB Corey Webster (groin), C David Baas (neck), CB Jayron Hosley (hamstring), and RB David Wilson (neck) are all out.

Did you know?
The Giants have 20 turnovers this year through five games. Last year, they had 21 for the season.

NFL Predictions
For this weekend, I like the Saints over the Patriots, Steelers over the Jets, Vikings over the Panthers, Colts over the Chargers, and in an upset, the Ravens over the Packers. (15-11 on the year)

Players to Watch
Victor Cruz- Right now, Victor Cruz is New York’s only actual weapon. Eli Manning is struggling this year with 13 interceptions (thanks to his horrendous offensive line). David Wilson fumbles a lot but won’t play anyway. Hakeem Nicks had a great start to his career but has missed games due to injury the past two years and only has 21 catches this season. Brandon Myers, as I mentioned earlier, is really bad. Cruz has to be dominant each and every week to give the Giants a chance.

Trumaine McBride- Trumaine McBride has been on 4 teams in 6 years, including the Bears. Going into this season, he was going to primarily be a special teams player for the Giants. Now, he’s starting. McBride gave up a long touchdown last week. He has zero interceptions this year. He’s a guy who the Bears can heavily exploit, and it doesn’t matter who he is guarding. With Hosley and Webster out, he will see the field a lot tonight, and that isn’t good news for New York.

Brandon Marshall- Brandon Marshall complained after Sunday’s game, but of course everyone is making it a bigger deal than it really is. The Bears have lost two straight games, and Marshall hasn’t been able to make a big impact in either game. Understandably, he said he is frustrated. Shortly after Marshall said this, Trestman said he has to do a better job of getting him involved. The Giants have given up 288 and 299 passing yards in their last two games. They’re 22nd in football in that category but 4th in run defense. In other words, the Bears will throw a lot tonight, and so I expect Marshall to catch at least 7 passes.

The Forecast
Anyone can now see that the Giants have a lot of injuries. They seemingly love to give the ball to the other team. Their two best players are doing nothing. Tom Coughlin sounds like a defeated man in every conference call and interview that he does. The Bears know that they have to win this game with a brutal schedule coming up—at Washington, at Green Bay, Detroit, and Baltimore. Fortunately for Chicago, whenever a team goes on the road to play a Thursday Night game, it’s extremely difficult for them. Two days of preparation and then a flight to another city is too much. It doesn’t help that the Giants are just horrible right now. Bears 30-16. (4-1 on the year)

-Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1)

The Forecast- Saints vs Bears

So much for that whole “on pace for” line I wrote last week for Jay Cutler, huh? Cutler played horribly last week in Detroit. He threw three interceptions, two of which are pathetic throws, and lost a fumble that Nick Fairley ran in for six points. It wasn’t all on Cutler, though. Alshon Jeffery has a solid game on paper but dropped two touchdowns, one that he followed up with a touchdown catch. Martellus Bennett dropped one as well. Kyle Long and Jordan Mills had rough games, which notches the third straight one for Mills. Adam Podlesh was atrocious once again; he’s now 26th in net punting and 28th in punt average. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s the worst punter in football. I wanted the Bears to draft a punter in the 6th or 7th round this year, but they didn’t. Apparently, they wanted Cornelius Washington and Marquess Wilson instead. They brought in a bunch of veterans this week for tryouts, but none of them were signed. Hopefully that was a wake up call for Podlesh.

The Lions were pretty good on Sunday, though. Cutler’s first interception was an awesome play by Louis Delmas. Ndamukong Suh is working his way toward Defensive Player of the Year honors. Brandon Pettigrew is finally not dropping everything thrown his way. Right now, they are definitely a contender in the NFC North.

It doesn’t get easier today. The Saints are coming off a game where they obliterated the Dolphins, and they are now 4-0 on the year. They have weapons all over the field, and with Sean Payton back, they are a serious threat in the NFC. The Saints have holes, but what team doesn’t? Luckily for Chicago, one of their biggest weaknesses is the inability to take their high-powered offense on the road. Since 2010, the Saints are just 14-10 on the road. That doesn’t seem too bad, but their record at home is far better during that span at home. Their biggest weakness is their offensive line. Jermon Bushrod left for the Bears as did Aaron Kromer, and now the Saints are tied for 11th worst in the league with 12 sacks given up. It’s hard to throw from your back, and the Bears have a chance to pummel Drew Brees today. All in all, the Bears have to tackle better. They have to take care of the football. They have to hit Drew Brees. They have to continue to force turnovers. Can they do all of that against a great team?

College Football Recap
USC finally fired Lane Kiffin! There is a god! Chris Petersen and Charlie Strong should be their first two calls.

Ohio State won again against scrappy Northwestern. Unfortunately, Northwestern was highly overrated coming into the game. They kept it close throughout. This is exactly why I think Pat Fitzgerald needs to stay in Evanston. I’m not so sure if he could recruit the best guys in Texas, Florida, or California. He will probably leave one of these days due to a big raise, but I can’t see him being very successful at a big football school.

For weeks, I’ve been tooting Teddy Bridgewater’s Heisman horn. I think there’s a new leader for the trophy. Jameis Winston has had an unbelievable year. He has accounted for 19 total touchdowns already and has only thrown two interceptions. His team is 6-0 and hasn’t scored under 41 points in a game yet. Bridgewater is great, but Winston has the upper hand due to the publicity of playing at Florida State and because of the competition.

Weather
The temperature should be right around 60 degrees today at kick-off after some showers during the night and early morning.

Injury Report
The Bears had quite a few players show up on the injury report this week: Stephen Paea (toe), Brandon Marshall (foot), Anthony Walters (hamstring), Charles Tillman (groin), Sherrick McManis (quad), Julius Peppers (chest), and Martellus Bennett (shoulder). Paea and Tillman are questionable, but they will both play. Walters is the only one who will not suit up. For New Orleans, S Roman Harper, RB Mark Ingram, WR Lance Moore, DT Tyrunn Walker, and DT Brodrick Bunkley are all out for today’s contest. That’s a lot of depth missing in the middle of that already weak run defense.

Did you know?
Jay Cutler has thrown 3 or more interceptions in a game seven different times. In the games following those travesties, his teams have a record of 6-1.

NFL Predictions
Last week was better. I made a little bit of progress. I like the Seahawks to get by the Colts, Broncos to smash the Cowboys, 49ers to top the Texans, Chiefs to beat the Titans, Ravens to upset the Dolphins, and the Packers to clobber the Lions. (11-10 on the year)

Players to Watch
Cameron Jordan- Cameron Jordan was selected by New Orleans in the first round of the 2011 draft out of California. In his rookie year, he was a big disappointment after notching only one sack. Jordan turned it around last season, sacking the quarterback eight times and forcing three fumbles. This year, he’s tied for 7th in the NFL with 4 sacks already, and the Saints’ defense is giving up less than 14 points per game. Defensive ends haven’t really given the Bears issues yet. For the most part, they held Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Jared Allen, Brett Kiesel, and Ziggy Ansah in check, but Jordan has been dominant thus far, and Jermon Bushrod has to do a good job against him today.

Jimmy Graham- For my money, Jimmy Graham is the best tight end in football. He’s so athletic, so fast, and so explosive. Graham has even improved his blocking. From week 2-4, he has 413 yards, and that is the most by a tight end during a three game span ever. Last week, he dominated Miami, including a highlight reel touchdown catch in between three Dolphins’ defenders. Drew Brees loves throwing the ball to Graham, and why wouldn’t he? He’s going to be a focal point in the New Orleans offense today, and I’m sure Mel Tucker game planned for him all week.

Matt Forte- Matt Forte has been great through four weeks. He’s caught everything thrown his way and is hitting the hole better than he ever has. Forte is the NFL’s fifth leading rusher to this point. Today, he has to do more of the same. I expect the Saints’ defense, led by Rob Ryan, is going to give Jay Cutler fits today. Ryan’s defense is fourth in the NFL in pass defense. However, they are dead last against the run, giving up 5.5 yards per carry. On Cutler’s weekly radio show on ESPN 1000, he said that they are trying to ease Forte’s run touches this year so he can stay fresh throughout the fall and winter, hence the amount of passes he’s received. Today might be the exception; I expect Forte to get a lot of carries.

The Forecast
Similar to week one, this game can go either way. Both teams have a lot of talent and both are going to have good seasons. The biggest key to the game is Jimmy Graham against the Bears’ secondary. While on paper it looks like it will be James Anderson’s duty to stop him, nobody is dumb enough to think Anderson’s going to somehow shadow Graham around the field. Graham runs like a wide receiver and is sometimes lined up as one. It will be a collective effort by the back-7 of Chicago. I think they are up for it. This is a veteran group with good players, except Chris Conte, and they despite being consistently put into awful positions last week in Detroit, they can’t be happy with giving up 40 points. Once again, don’t underestimate home field advantage. The Saints almost lost earlier this year against the pathetic Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. Bears 27-26. (4-0 on the year).

-Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1)

Saints at Bears 2013

Matt Forte Against New OrleansI definitely have more concerns about Saints at Bears 2013 than I have confidence in the Bears winning. So the most direct thing I can write this week is: is there anyone out there that feels strongly in the Bears winning this game?

One thing is certain, if the Bears do beat the Saints, it will be a gigantic “prove it” moment for the Chicago Bears. This would be much greater than the Bears’ biggest success so far in 2013, which has been beating the Cincinnati Bengals opening day. The Bengals have been off-and-on, while the Saints are legitimately within the best teams in the NFC and NFL.

New Orleans’ defense has rebounded to be ranked in the top-10 in all categories so far this season, yet I think the Bears can have some degree of success against the Saints’ defense. What concerns me is the Bears’ defense being able to stop the juggernaut that is the Saints offense. Given that the Bears have been weak in generating a pass rush and stopping the run, I don’t know how likely the Bears are to successfully stop the Saints offense.

The only clear things going for the Bears are the location of the game, and the fact that the Bears haven’t lost to the Saints outside of New Orleans since 2002. The greatest hope would be that the Saints have an off day, in my opinion.